A report has recommended that responsibility for healthcare needs in prisons should remain with the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
The report (11 May), described as the first comprehensive health assessment carried out for the IPS, was published by the Minister for Justice Simon Harris and the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
It makes 60 recommendations in total – 31 linked to improving the delivery of IPS healthcare services, and 29 that cover improved governance.
The Health Needs Assessment (HNA) report calls for the development of “formal pathways” between the IPS and the wider health system – including the Department of Health and HSE.
This would, according to the report, “enable the culture and recognition of the role of prisons within the health system”, and address professional and service isolation.
Governance and resources
The recommendations also cover general healthcare provision, women’s healthcare, mental-health services, addiction, and substance misuse services.
A number of recommendations are also related to the governance and resourcing of healthcare provision in the IPS.
The report says that the IPS should set up a new directorate, incorporating all of the current health, wellbeing and psychology services within a common structure.
It also calls for the recruitment of a number of additional staff – including three “full-time experienced” nursing professionals, an additional pharmacist, and a new healthcare risk manager.
The report also includes a draft implementation plan for the recommendations. Minister Harris said that the IPS would lead the process, with much of the work taking place over the next three years.
“We are not starting from scratch. This will complement the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the interaction of persons with mental health and addiction challenges in the justice sector, which was published in September 2022, while we have rolled out gynaecological services to females in Limerick Prison,” the minister added.
Minister Donnelly said that the report had highlighted the need to support and increase co-operation between the two Government departments on the provision healthcare for prisoners.
“The Department of Health is committed to working with the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service to support this recommendation,” he stated.